With over 80 titles now published in the acclaimed series “33 1/3” (book-length critiques of particularly esteemed pop records running the gamut from “Electric Ladyland” to “Kid A”), it has fallen to Bryan Waterman, a NYU professor, to dissect Television’s 1977 recording, “Marquee Moon.” His study, which shares a title with the album in question, weighs in at a portly 222 pages (most of the books in the series are much shorter), and will delight both Television fans and nostalgists of seventies punk-era New York. Mr. Waterman explains why the album just might be the prize catch to emerge from the glory days of CBGB.
There are certain artists one wishes one could outgrow. They belong to one’s youth, after all, and perhaps they should remain there, along with all the other youthful things one is relieved to have outgrown. But for me, the music of the CBGB’s-era band Television, and in particular its singer and songwriter, Tom Verlaine, is one of those youthful enthusiasms which (so far, anyway) threads its way through my life with embarrassing persistence. Occasionally it disappears for long periods while other, more novel interests take hold, but then, like mosquitoes in Spring, back it comes, nipping at the senses as tenaciously as always, only in this case the result is intense pleasure rather than irritation and blood marks.
Television was, or is — no one seems to be sure of its exact current status — the band best known for inaugurating the CBGB’s scene in the mid-1970’s; for having to this day a small but ferociously loyal group of devotees; and for having been eclipsed, at least in terms of popularity, by other bands of that era such as Talking Heads, Blondie, The Ramones, et al. Even by the monstrously egotistical standards set by most rock stars, they seemed weirdly indifferent to fame and record sales, but like the Velvet Underground their musical influence remains pervasive and lives on in a variety of formats which now include amateurishly filmed but invaluable concert clips put up on YouTube.